Let me ask you a question:
Are you trying to make money on all your marketing campaigns?
If so, I have bad news.
You’re holding your business back.
Yep, you heard me right. Always striving for a positive return on advertising dollars can actually be a BAD thing—that is, if it means that your business never takes any risks.
Let me explain…
ROI vs Growth in Your Business
If you’ve been following DigitalMarketer or Ryan Deiss for any length of time, you may have heard this little gem of a saying:
This probably feels counterintuitive to anyone who’s ever poured over a budget sheet. That’s because trying to spend goes against many of our natural instincts, which usually focus on minimizing customer acquisition costs.
But the truth is that if you want your business to grow, to SCALE, then you have to be willing to spend more money to acquire new customers. To take on more risk. To lose money in the short term so you can set yourself up for more revenue potential in the long run.
To drive that point home, let’s talk really quickly about the difference between growth and ROI:
ROI, or “return on investment,” is a measure of how effectively you have recaptured the money you’ve spent to create, distribute, and promote your product. In other words, ROI helps you track whether every dollar you’ve spent has been recovered or not.
Growth is all about the generation of new customers. It’s a function of scale and volume—instead of acquiring 100 new customers every month, growth means acquiring 200 new customers, then 300, and so on and so forth. More customers mean more market penetration, more opportunities to cross-sell and more word of mouth—all things that can make your business more impactful in the world.
Now, here’s the thing about growth and ROI.
ROI is great. We all want to make money, after all—right?
But if you focus too much on ROI, it can really limit your ability to scale. You’ll be stunting your business’s long-term growth in favor of a quick return.
A while back, we took a look at what was going on under the hood at DigitalMarketer. And we realized that’s exactly what was happening in our own business.
Our ROI was good—we knew we could put a dollar in our campaigns and get $1.50 back. But we had capped out on the number of people we could reach and bring into the fold. We realized that a high ROI does not necessarily mean a growing business.
Unfortunately, the problem with playing it safe like that meant that our business wasn’t growing quickly enough to meet our long-term goal of doubling the size of 10,000 businesses over the next five years.
And we realized that if we were going to hit our goals, we would have to create new selling systems that carried more risk—but along with that risk, the potential for greater growth.
In Business, Risk = Opportunity
Anytime you attempt to scale your business, to grow beyond your current size, you’re going to have to take on some risk.
But don’t worry. We’re not talking about buying lottery tickets here.
These are calculated risks that you make leveraging formulaic selling systems designed to scale your business.
In this post, you’re going to learn how to create a variety of these selling systems that will work together to grow your business. You’ll also learn how to evaluate the opportunity of a selling system and take smart risks that are necessary to scale.
And you’re going to learn through an in-depth analysis of five selling systems that worked for us at DigitalMarketer.
But first, let’s define exactly what a selling system is (and is not). We do that by answering these three questions.
The 3 Critical Questions for Every Selling System
I should explain that when I say “selling system,” I could be referring to any kind of online marketing funnel or campaign that converts visitors into leads, customers, and fans.
They can span any number of websites or traffic sources and look different depending on the market they serve.
But for your marketing funnel to be considered a selling system, you need to be able to answer these three questions…
Selling System Question 1: What is the Goal of this System?
Every time you create a new selling system, that system should have a goal. One overarching objective. Something your business needs.
It’s important to remember that not every selling system will have the same goal. And certainly, not every system will have the goal of “making money”—some systems exist only to set up future opportunities to make sales and create customers.
For cold traffic, your goal might be to generate awareness.
For early-funnel prospects, your goal might be to nurture visitors and convert them into leads.
Finally, for mid- to late-funnel visitors, your goal will probably be to generate sales and revenue.
The goals you choose for your selling systems will vary depending on how mature your business is. If you’re starting a new business and in need of cash, your goals will almost exclusively be to generate revenue.
If you’re a more established business looking to expand your reach, your goal might be to generate more leads or get more inbound phone calls that you can push through to your sales team.
But to call your marketing funnel a selling system, it’s critical that you have a defined goal because working towards that goal will drive your future decision-making.
Selling System Question 2: How Do You Define Success?
Now that your selling system has a goal, you have to decide how to measure the success of that goal.
You can’t know what success looks like until you know how to measure it.
To define success, you’ll need to choose a key metric or KPI that you can use to gauge the performance of your selling system.
Your method of measurement can pretty easily be deduced from your goal—if you want to grow your email list, your success metric will be the number of new leads you add to that list.
Here are a few other possible metrics:
- Site visitors
- Phone calls
- Posts read
The most important thing is that this metric must give you an accurate way to quantify your goal and measure the success of your campaign.
Selling System Question 3: How Much Risk Are You Willing to Take?
Finally, you have to figure out what is an acceptable level of risk for this selling system.
The most important thing to keep in mind here is that risk correlates with opportunity.
The greater the long-term revenue potential, the more risk you can afford to take on.
So, with higher-value offers like a high-ticket item or a subscription business that provides long-lasting continuity revenue, you can afford to take on more risk.
Alternatively, if you’re selling an inexpensive item with a low-profit-margin, then your risk threshold should be much lower.
So, how should you define risk? What exactly IS it?
Risk here refers to how long you can wait to recoup your investment and get to break-even. In other words, how long does it take you to earn back all the money you spent on that selling system?
Your initial investment may include expenses like the cost of your goods, payroll, or the cost of running traffic. And once you break even on those costs, any additional revenue generated by a customer can be reinvested into the business.
For a low-risk selling system, your goal might be to reach break-even after just a couple days.
But for a high-risk selling system, you might be willing to stomach a negative ROI (spending more than you made back) for several months before earning back your investment.
And you know you can afford to do that because the eventual payoff is worth it—you are investing in the relationship based on the promise of future returns.
So now that you know the three critical questions you have to ask every time you build a selling system, here are the five selling systems your business needs to scale. We used these same systems to take DigitalMarketer to the next level.
Selling System to Scale Your Business #1: Bulk Lead Acquisition
Our first example is a classic selling system that we have used many, many times in the past with great success.
It’s called a bulk lead acquisition funnel, and it’s all about driving as many leads as possible.
Having a large list of prospects that you can email anytime you want—when you release a new product, for example, or put out a new piece of content that needs a little traction—is important for any business.
And that’s why this type of selling system has been so critical for us in growing DigitalMarketer.
Our goal with this selling system is to generate a high volume of new subscribers to our email list.
Our KPI for this selling system was positive growth in our email list. In other words, we wanted the number of new email subscribers to outpace the number of unsubscribes caused by normal email list attrition.
So, if we were losing 5,000 subscribers each week to attrition, we needed to be gaining at least 5,001 new subscribers. (And preferably many more than that.)
This was the selling systems where we could afford the least risk.
That’s because the offers we promoted with this selling system weren’t very expensive, and we cast a wide, wide net (meaning some people weren’t qualified off the bat).
Because the opportunity here is relatively low, we don’t want to take on too much risk.
In this case, we were willing to stay in the negative for 30 days. That let us include the revenue from those who took the Lab membership and decided to stick around past their first month
One of our most successful examples of this type of selling system is our “Facebook Ad Template Library” funnel. It started with this Facebook ad:
The ad took visitors to this landing page, where they could opt-in to get a free resource that would help them create better Facebook ads.
After the visitor opted in to our email list, they were offered a Tripwire (a low-dollar offer designed to convert leads into customers).
And finally, we followed up by selling them our monthly subscription product, DM Lab.
This selling system did generate some sales and new customers—and it made enough money after 30 days to cover the costs of the paid traffic sending visitors there!
But more importantly, it achieved its primary goal, which was growing our email list—allowing us to reach more people and helping to scale our business.
Selling System to Scale Your Business #2: Low Entry Barrier Subscriptions
So our first selling system succeeded in growing our email list. Bringing in new leads.
But as I mentioned, it doesn’t necessarily do a great job of converting those leads into customers.
Only about 4% of people who saw the ad for our “Facebook Ad Template Library” ever even saw the DM Lab offer.
And that was a huge barrier to adoption.
The challenge was: how do we get them to join in the first place?
We solved that problem by creating a low-entry barrier subscription selling system.
We removed the risk by offering people a $1 trial to DM Lab. If they stuck around after 30 days, they would become a paying subscriber (which, at the time, was $38.60/month).
The goal of this selling system is to encourage massive subscription growth in DM Lab.
We believed that if we could limit the perceived risk by offering a 30-day trial for just $1, we could convince a large number of people to give Lab a try…
…and we knew from experience that once they did, more than half (about 58%) would stick around and become full-paying customers.
Remember our goal here wasn’t to generate leads. It was to generate actual paying subscribers.
With that in mind, our success KPI wasn’t trial sign-ups. It was the number of people who stuck around after the trial was over and converted into paying members of DM Lab.
Our risk tolerance for this selling system was higher than it was for the bulk leads acquisition funnel, but it was still fairly low—because we were only guaranteed a dollar off the bat from conversions—the real payoff wouldn’t come till later.
For that reason, we required this selling system to break-even after 40 days (just after the first rebill period).
To create a similar system of your own, you need two things: some kind of a subscription product and a “warm” audience of people who know who you are.
For DigitalMarketer, that audience included site visitors and email subscribers.
We drove those people to a sales page like this one, where we offered them a $1 trial membership in DM Lab.
This is a really common strategy that you’ll notice all over the place when you start looking. Subscription companies like Audible, Spotify, and Pandora offer similar trial offers designed to generate new subscribers and build recurring revenue.
Selling System to Scale Your Business #3: Value-Centric Lead Acquisition
The first two selling systems were all about volume—driving massive numbers of leads and subscribers.
But this one is different. In this selling system, we’re optimizing to deliver value and a great experience.
Everything else—leads, subscribers, revenue—all that goes on the back-burner.
This can be a scary prospect for a company that is in need of quick financial returns because it involves more risk and delayed monetization. With a selling system like this, it can take several months to earn back your investment.
But when you can use a system like this to promote a fairly high-ticket item, it will prove well worth it in the end.
With this selling system, our goal was to educate and excite people. We wanted to prioritize providing a great experience and ensure customers learn a lot from us in order to qualify people for a more expensive, higher-touch offer on the back.
That brings up a tricky question…how do you measure education and excitement? There’s no straightforward metric for that.
So, what we did was use percent of course consumed as our KPI.
And by doing that, we were able to optimize for that metric…getting more people to actually watch more of the training videos. We used emails and even Facebook ads to encourage students that didn’t complete all the lessons to go back and finish the course.
It’s important to note that we still promoted products to these customers and made sales. We just optimized our system around consumption, rather than sales.
The training product this selling system promoted is relatively expensive ($1,997), so as a result, we could take a little more risk here. We set our break-even goal at 60 days, which was enough to cover the six-week course plus the follow-up emails to promote the product, “The Machine.”
It was definitely a risk to spend all this money with no expectation of making it back for two months. But the results were incredible, and we blew all our goals out of the water.
Ryan taught a free six-week class in conjunction with InfusionSoft called “Double Your Sales.” And in that class, he delivered a ton of great information how people could double their leads, double their sales, double their reactivation purchases, and so on.
It was an awesome course that proved to be a great introduction to digital marketing for people who needed an automation tool like Infusionsoft but didn’t realize that this was a missing piece in their business.
During this six-week course, we weren’t focused on making money at all. Instead, we put 100% of our focus on delivering value and making sure the people in this class had a great experience and learned a lot.
At the very end of this course, we did promote our product called “The Machine” to people who had finished the class. We didn’t push it very hard; we basically said, “You’ve learned a lot, and now that you’re using InfusionSoft, here’s a course that will help you to get the most out of your email marketing.”
And what we realized was that over time, even after three to five months, we were generating an insane number of sales from people who had taken this class!
3 Keys to Success with this Selling System
To succeed with a selling system like this, you need three things.
First of all, you must have great content.
People who consume your content have to learn a lot and come to trust you as an authority in your niche.
Second, that content has to lead naturally to the product you’re promoting.
In this example, we taught a course in combination with InfusionSoft (which is a marketing automation platform with a big email marketing component). Then we promoted an email marketing training system on the backend.
A big part of the reason why this worked so well was because of the congruency between the free class and the product on the backend.
And finally, the product you’re promoting has to sell for a fairly high dollar amount. Otherwise, it’s hard to justify all the time and expense of delivering that content for free.
Remember, risk is always correlated with opportunity.
Selling System to Scale Your Business #4: Monetization & Retargeting
Of all the selling systems in this post, this is the one that everyone should get started with.
This is where you promote your best stuff to your customers and previous buyers—in other words, your smallest but highest-quality audience.
It’s low-hanging fruit with great potential for immediate revenue and high ROI.
The goal here is simple: to monetize your leads and customers. You want to turn one-time buyers into multi-buyers while promoting higher-ticket items.
For the KPI, we’re also going to keep things simple and straightforward: we’re looking for maximum positive ROI.
With this selling system, because you’re promoting your hottest products to your hottest audience, there should be almost no risk. Typically we look to break-even after 0-3 days (only use more than 0 days if you have cart abandonment retargeting to recapture potential buyers).
If you’ve never been, then take it from me: they’re an AMAZING experience for everyone involved. Because we have in-person access to people for several days, we can provide massive, massive value during these events. They’re some of the best training we can offer.
But guess what?
We aren’t promoting these events to cold traffic. Because someone who has never heard of us is not likely to buy a plane ticket and fly several hours to spend a couple days with us.
Instead, we’re promoting these events to CUSTOMERS—people who have already taken the time to know us and invested in some of our other trainings. Those are the people who are most likely to go to these live events.
Selling System to Scale Your Business #5: Sales Lead Acquisition
When we implemented this fifth and final selling system, it was a big turning-point for DigitalMarketer.
Because this one helped us change not just our strategy, but our audience. It marked the point where we expanded beyond B2C marketing (which targeted entrepreneurs and employees) and started talking to larger businesses about how we could help them grow with better marketing training.
The thing about B2B marketing is that some big-ticket items will never be sold via an online sales funnel. That’s because they require a conversation to make sure that the product or service is a good fit for what that business needs or to customize the offer to suit the business’ specific needs.
This requires a strong sales team to close your leads.
It also requires a different kind of selling system to be effective. We call it the sales lead acquisition selling system.
The goal of this selling system is not to generate new customers…but to generate conversations with prospects.
The reason we focused on conversations was because the product we were promoting typically requires some customization and approval from a chain of command rather than just one individual.
Our salespeople have to take the time to understand each customer’s unique situation and make sure they are really getting a version of the product that fits everyone’s needs.
In this case, our success KPI was a customer-initiated conversation where the customer came to us with a question or request for more information.
Primarily we looked at…
- Lead forms completed
- Email replies
- And phone calls initiated
Because this is a high-reward sales funnel leading to an expensive product with a recurring element, our goal was to break-even after 60 days.
And in many cases, you can push that out even further, depending on the revenue potential of your product or service (and your average sales cycle).
We used this selling system to extend an invitation to DigitalMarketer HQ, our flagship training program designed to train an entire marketing department.
It’s a more complex offer than DM Lab. It requires more decisions on the part of the customer.
So rather than trying to sell the product directly online, we just wanted to get the customer on the phone—and give our salespeople a chance to help customize the offer based on the needs of each individual business.
If you take a look at the form page for DM HQ, you’ll notice that we require more information than simply an email address.
For instance, we ask for a phone number because when someone fills out this form, our ultimate goal is to get them on the phone.
The Importance of Multiple Selling Systems for Business Growth
One thing I hope you take away from this blog post is the realization that a successful business requires more than one good funnel or traffic campaign.
In order to set your business up for growth, you’ll need a variety of selling systems that bring you a diversity of leads using a healthy mix of low, medium, and high risk selling systems.
Don’t forget—risk is an inevitable and essential part of business. You need some risk!
You should, of course, avoid taking on too much risk. Don’t go out and empty your company’s entire bank account on Facebook ads after reading this (that’s just not smart).
Instead, you need to find a happy medium. And that happy medium typically involves leveraging a few higher-risk selling systems supported by many lower-risk selling systems to scale your business.
So, take the five selling systems you learned in this blog post, try them out in your company, and test new variations on each one to reach new heights in your business.